From an inclusive coffee shop to sugar-free sweets: ten business ideas win EU4Youth funding in Belarus

03-07-2020
Photo: European Union
Photo: European Union

On 27 June, a third grant competition was held in Belarus to support vulnerable young people in starting a new business as part of the EU4Youth Employability and Stability project.

Ten participants out of 14 received financial support of €2,000-€4,000 for the establishment of their businesses. The participants had worked with mentors for more than 100 hours to be ready to present their ideas to the jury on 27 June.

“You will create new products and new jobs,” said Anastasia Khomenkova, representative of the partner organisation BelBiz, opening the contest.

The grants were given to: an inclusive coffee point, handmade jewellery and handicrafts, healthy sugar-free sweets, individually designed cakes, a photographer and a personal soft skills trainer, an online store for men and children’s clothing, dry cleaning of furniture with home visits, and an online school for children.

In the near future, the winners will launch their businesses, they will enter the market, launch advertisement for their products, and begin to negotiate a lease for offices.

Social businesses

Many of the participants realised the great demand for the “social” nature of businesses and included social corporate responsibility in their business plans. One social and entrepreneurial project is an inclusive coffee point, which Alexander Karnitsky decided to open. The idea of ​​the business came to Alexander when he was looking for work, having a disability: "I just looked for work. They refused me. It was a shame, although I seem to be normal," he said in his presentation.

Women's Leadership

Two participants decided to go into business after giving birth to their children and going through maternity leave. Valentina Ermolovich received a grant for healthy vegan sweets without sugar. Her education is as a civil engineer, but after she had her two children, she decided to open her own business: “The dream is to go outside the house and open a candy store,” said Valentina.

Another active mother is Natalya Sakovets, who worked as the head of the banking services centre. Natalia had three children and stayed on maternity leave for seven years. “During this time, my interests have changed dramatically, being a mother is now a full-time job,” said Natalia. She received a grant for an online school for children called Online-intellect.

Unoccupied niches outside Minsk

Participants in the competition also included unoccupied niches in regions outside Minsk. An online store of men's and children's clothing will work in the Pukhovichi district. Another good idea involved pizza deliveries in the Sloboda agricultural town, but this idea didn’t receive funding.

In the context of the pandemic, the organisers held the grant competition in a closed format with a limited number of guests and observing a distance of 1.5 meters between all participants in the hall.

About the project

Funded by the European Union, the project EU4Youth: Employability and stability in Armenia, Belarus and Ukraine’ aims at developing youth employment and self-employment skills, as well as expanding opportunities for young people to actively participate in the labour market.

The project offers trainings to young people, developed according to an international curriculum, but adapted to the local context, and includes two blocks: Life Skills and Employability. Within the framework of the project, young people receive assistance in improving their competencies, professional skills, and in the search for internships and employment. In addition, the project organises entrepreneurship trainings for young people. Upon completion of the trainings, the evaluation committee determines 15 business ideas for subsequent financing. To ensure the sustainability of enterprises, post-support is organised for participants.